About Us

IOTA is a tax-exempt organization under sections 501(c)(3) – Scientific Research and 509(a)(2) – Public Education of the Internal Revenue Code USA.

IOTA is an international scientific, research and educational organization born in 1983 in Texas, USA.  Our members conduct expeditions to distant points around the United States and other countries at night in order to record critical and unique eclipses of stars by minor planets (these are formally called “occultations”).  These expeditions can require each participant to travel alone over distances of hundreds of miles at times for an event that might last only a fraction of a second to staff one of a number of sites positioned carefully across the path of this event.  We gather data from timings of astronomical occultations in order to develop and improve information on the size and shape of these bodies.  In addition, data derived can be used to improve the orbits of asteroids, discover hitherto unknown double stars, uncover unknown companions to asteroids as well as to find ring systems surrounding them.  IOTA provides a variety of educational resources to promote and encourage observations of astronomical occultations.  Many of the predictions for occultations may result in “misses” where the occultation is not seen but since the advent of new space-based star catalogs, the success rate has drastically increased; such misses also provide valuable information on the quality of either the affected star position or asteroid orbit.

As part of our educational services we provide ongoing predictions of occultations of stars by asteroids and also occultations of stars as the Moon passes between the Earth and said stars; additional observations are made of grazing occultations of stars by the mountains of the Moon’s north and south polar regions.  Specifically, lunar occultations result in improved mapping of the heights of these regions.

We further provide information and recommendations on observing equipment and techniques, and report and publish our data in scientific journals as well as in online web resources.  IOTA supports professional efforts such as those created by Southwest Research Institute (RECON program) and the European Research Council Lucky Star Project; we also support programs to focus on Pluto, Trans Neptunian Objects, Centaurs and other unique solar system bodies. IOTA’s efforts support future space missions that study Trojan and main belt asteroids. Our observations help characterize asteroids, some of which are potentially hazardous (may hit Earth), and thereby support the goals of NASA’s Planetary Defense Coordination Office.

In addition to the primary IOTA organization in the USA there are complementary organizations in Europe, Australia and New Zealand, the Middle East, Japan and India as well as observers on all continents except Antarctica.

Amateur astronomers at all levels of experience are encouraged to become “citizen-scientists” and join in this exciting branch of astronomy.